Stagnating welfare payments and the rising cost of living is driving more and more Canberrans into the arms of charity, as politicians push for an increase to Newstart.
Communities@Work's Gungahlin and Tuggeranong community pantries have seen a near 20 per cent increase in client visits between January and October this year.
Both pantries recorded nearly 1900 visits last month, with food provided more than 32,000 times this year alone.
For a $3 per year membership, clients can shop up to three times a week in its community pantries.
For less than $12.50 each session, clients can get a basket of groceries that could cost them six times that at a traditional supermarket.
Fruits, vegetables and bread are free, subject to daily limits, while essentials like sanitary pads are also free.
Communities@Work's director of social programs and volunteering Ruth Zanker said the spike was being driven by the rising cost of living, especially rent.
Most of their clients are on fixed government pensions, she said.
Payments like Newstart have been frozen for 20 years, rising only with inflation, meaning singles have to survive on $559.00 per fortnight.
By comparison, the single aged pension is $933.40 per fortnight, although it can still be tough to make ends meet.
"Recently we had an older lady come in, quite frail, quite tired, very, very teary," Ms Zanker said.
"It turns out she was living on cup-a-noodle soup because that's all she could afford, she had a heating bill come in that was too much and she just didn't know what to do next."
Another woman who came to the community pantry was living in her car, after moving to Canberra for a job that fell through.
Communities@Work gave her food, clothes and a place to shower, which meant she could present herself well when she secured a job interview.
"She did get the job and within two weeks for her first pay she was able to afford some accommodation," Ms Zanker said.
The Australian Council of Social Services has called for the single rate of Newstart to be lifted by $75 per week. Accounting giant KPMG is pushing for a rise of $100 per week, in order to stimulate the economy.
Labor is also calling for an increase, although MPs Andrew Leigh and Linda Burney would not put a dollar figure on it on Thursday.
"We will not be rushing into nominating that amount until we have a better idea what the circumstances are closer to the election, but what we do understand is, what is evidenced here today that there is a need right across the board for an increase to Newstart," Ms Burney said.
But the Morrison government has resisted calls thus far. Prime Minister Scott Morrison's favourite refrain is "the best form of welfare is a job" and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said any increase to the unemployment payment would end up in the hands of drug dealers and pub owners.
But it appears to be getting harder to find a job.
Labour force figures released on Thursday revealed the unemployment rate rose to 5.3 per cent in October. It coincided with the first net jobs loss since August 2016, with the number of jobs falling by 19,000 over the month on seasonally adjusted figures.
That means the number of unemployed workers is now more than 726,000.
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Youth unemployment has also skyrocketed to 12.4 per cent, with more than 275,500 young Australians unemployed.
But as Australia Institute senior research fellow David Richardson points out, the real figure is more like 1.7 million.
That's because the way the federal government calculates the official unemployment rate excludes workers who've given up looking for work, or women with caring responsibilities who want to work but can't unless they find alternative care arrangements.
"Put another way, less than 40 per cent of the people who aren't working but want to work are counted as officially unemployed," Mr Richardson said, in a report released on Thursday.
"If we include all those who want to work, then the real unemployment rate rises to around 12 per cent of the workforce, not 5 per cent."
Perversely, the government's non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU) target of 5 per cent means its rhetoric about getting unemployed Australians into work is a "logical contradiction", Mr Richardson said.
"In parliament recently, following a question on the adequacy of the Newstart allowance, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said: 'The best form of welfare is a job ... Our government will not rest until we get all of them into jobs, because that's the pledge we made at the last election: 1.25 million new jobs over the next five years'," Mr Richardson said.
"This suggests he wants to assure us that all of the unemployed will get a job. And that becomes his excuse for ignoring the plight of people trying to live on the inadequate Newstart allowance.
"Of course if unemployed people did begin to find jobs in large numbers and the rate of unemployment was to fall, then the logic of NAIRU policy would require government interventions via monetary and even fiscal policy to slow the economy and restore 5 per cent unemployment. So the government is adopting irreconcilable positions in pursuing a NAIRU, yet still blaming the unemployed for their own plight."
In the meantime, services like Communties@Work pick up the pieces.
And as Ms Zanker points out, anyone can fall on hard times.
"There was another lady living in her car that came to Gungahlin. She was living in her car in a BMW and she had really well presented clothes on but it turns out she'd left a domestic violence situation, the car was leased and it wasn't in her name so she wasn't able to, say, sell her car and use that as an asset," Ms Zanker said.
"The only thing she could do was live in it. Her clothes were very presentable but at the same time they were the only ones she had so that image she was projecting out there was someone who really had a good life but things had actually not worked out for her.
"She didn't think she'd ever be in a situation where she needed help. You never know what is going on with someone."
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the community pantry membership was $3 per week.